Intellectual property and divorce

Ideas can be worth millions and that makes them high-value assets in a divorce. Since Connecticut is an equitable distribution state, a divorce court divides property fairly rather than a 50/50 split. That makes dividing the value of the family car easier than what a book’s royalties may or may not bring in. One is tangible, the other is not.

There are ways for courts to appraise intellectual property at the time of divorce and depending on what type of IP a couple has determines what is theirs to split.

Copyright

The World Intellectual Property Organization defines copyright as a protection for property including the following:

  • Literary works like books and poems
  • Advertisements and maps
  • Artistic works
  • Film

Even architecture falls under copyright if created under the right circumstances. Marital property copyright allows for both parties to split damages from copyright infringements and royalties from licensing arrangements.

Trademarks

Where copyright is intangible protection over expressions, trademarks serve the same purpose for symbols, terms and phrases. If a couple owns a trademark, their rights are similar to copyright property rights. Trademark division often occurs when involving a business and the courts may consider its value when evaluating the business in question.

Patents

According to Techcrunch, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted over 330,000 patents in 2019. These grant protections for novel or useful inventions that allow people a reasonable time to make a profit from. The patent bars others from manufacturing or selling too-similar inventions for a period of time. The court may divide these rights or evaluate the worth of the patent for equitable distribution of other assets.

Some ideas are worth more than others, they take time and effort to build up and couples must divide that tangible and intangible value as fairly as possible.